Why I Stopped Thrifting

Four our five years ago, while I was still in college, you could usually find me at Goodwill on the weekends. You could usually find me shopping the sale racks at super-cheap mall stores too.

It wasn’t that I was donating things or using the one-in/one-out strategy that keeps so many closets in check. In fact, I think it was my frequent thrifting that took my two closets from stuffed to overstuffed.

I still love thrift shops

Before I talk about the reasons why I no longer thrift, I need to clarify: I love buying secondhand. I think thrift stores are an amazing way to get things you need without contributing directly to the worlds of fast fashion and fast everything.

What I don’t love is thrifting for the sake of thrifting – it became a mindless habit for me and I didn’t really need the things I usually brought home with me.


Source: Know Your Meme

Blinded by the price

One of the big issues I now find with my thrifting was that I too often saw something that looked interesting and bought it based on price alone.

It doesn’t fit perfectly? Well it’s only five bucks. It has a stain or a tear? Well it’s half off and I could probably fix it or wash it out.

I ended up with a bunch of cheap clothing that looked and felt cheap. I would wear something once and realize I didn’t like it as much as I had initially thought. At that point it would fall to the depths of my closet and I wouldn’t see it until years later when I started my simplicity journey.

The mindless shopper

I was also a mindless shopper. I would go to Goodwill when I was bored or when I had extra time. I think I was even using thrifting as a way to cope with stress.

If I had a bad week, I’d go buy a blazer that was too big for me. If I had a good week, I’d buy a dress that maybe actually got worn more than once.

You get the picture – it was just as bad of a habit as going to the mall with a credit card and no real reason to be there. I’d buy fun things to put on my desk, my nightstand, my walls, and none of it was there intentionally. It was just there.

How I buy secondhand

Now I only go to Goodwill when I need to. On Halloween, my husband and I were able to get almost everything we needed for our costumes there (we went as Bojack and Princess Carolyn from a show called Bojack Horseman).

When I do go, I try to have a very specific intention. Am I there for workout gear? Then stay away from the dresses.

I’ve also found that buying online is helpful (eBay and Shop Goodwill are my favorites). Buying secondhand things online is a little risky since you can’t see exactly what you’re getting beforehand, but that adds just enough hesitation to the process. That way, if you really don’t need something, you have a little more time to think it through.

I wrote a post over two years ago about dressing like a million bucks (without spending a ton) that still holds true.

Speaking of clothing, I am planning a wardrobe overhaul this year. There are quite a few pieces that used to bring me joy that don’t anymore, and I’ve been researching some ethical clothing brands that I may integrate into my wardrobe along with quality used items. As always, it’ll be an intentional process with a simple outcome. So look out for posts in the coming months about that!

What shopping habits do you have (good or bad)?

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One Year in California

Today marks one year since our first day as residents of Los Angeles!

Last year, we had just gotten rid of over half our stuff, packed our Honda Civic with what was left and drove across the country.

And now, I want to reflect on a few of the highlights of our first year in LA, a few of the less-glamorous things, and a few tidbits of what you can expect popping up on the blog this next year.

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Highlights of the year

This year has been way more positive than negative, so I’m counting my blessings there for sure. Here’s what went well:

  • Finding and furnishing the apartment. Getting started so quickly really helped us feel right at home in our new city. This is officially my favorite living space in my whole life.
  • Adding Bonnie to the family. She’s just great. We’ve got some big vet bills for her this month, though, but she’s such an important part of our family now that it’s worth every penny.
  • Family and friends visiting. We were fortunate to see most of our family and quite a few of our friends this first year. Again, it’s been integral to adapting to this new life.
  • Job changes for both of us. My husband was able to get into a post-production job within the first month of living in LA, and I was able to transition out of two part time jobs and into a full time one! We’re both happier with our new situations.

The rough spots

I don’t have anything specific for this section, but a few themes did emerge.

  • Working from home. This sounds like it should be a highlight, but when making the transition to a city where you don’t know anyone, the lack of coworkers is a little rough. Thank goodness for video and phone calls and especially this blog – it’s helped keep me grounded on some shaky days.
  • Inability to set a routine. I can get into a good rhythm sometimes, but with all the visits and schedule disruptions, it’s been a little difficult to nail down. That means exercise, writing and working can get tough. That’s why balance is one of my words for 2016!
  • The rapid de-simplifying of the holidays. The past few months have been a little bit like a runaway train, and our bank account and my stress levels reflect that. I’m looking forward to February when things will actually calm down a bit.

What to look forward to

So here’s what both you and I can look forward to this year on the blog and otherwise. Want to hear more about a certain topic? Let me know in the comments.

  • Our monthly challenges. My husband and I are going to try a few different monthly challenges: bodyweight exercising, a vegan diet, and possibly a TV-free month among others.
  • Decreasing our student loan debt. Our goal is to pay off at least 25% of our loans this year – not a small feat, but I think we can do it. More on student loans and debt in a later post.
  • More volunteering. We volunteered on Christmas Eve this past year, and met a lot of wonderful people. It was so fun in fact, we’re going to try to do it every month. We may explore further options as well, and I’ll share some best practices for that once I’ve discovered them.
  • A better blog. This month, I’m taking some time out to develop a proper content calendar. My goal is to actually have a few posts scheduled out in advance at any given time so I’m not scraping around for post ideas. New design, new photos and new collaborations may be in the future to take this blog to the next level.
  • More colorful minimalism. I’ve been really craving more color in my life, especially in my wardrobe, so I’ll be intentionally adding and removing things to increase my joy. Of course, I’ll share how and why later on the blog.

A thank you

And finally, I want to thank all my readers for a great first year in California – we did it! The kind words and support have meant a great deal, and I can only hope to repay you by continuing forward as the Minimal Millennial.

And now your turn – where were you last year at this time, and how far have you come?

 

Six Doors to a Simpler Life

Who doesn’t love a good origin story? It helps you see where someone’s values are and what motivates them.

You can read my simple-living origin story here, but here’s a quick recap for new readers:

After I graduated college, I was drowning in 22 years worth of clutter. I was chronically stressed and depressed. I moved four times that year, and the final move nearly broke me. I remember carrying 50-gallon trashbags full of clothes that I never wore downstairs to the moving truck and holding back tears under the literal and figurative weight of it all.

So when I began my life in a new city, I started to get rid of anything I didn’t need (which was no small feat). It started with clothes and slowly expanded into my other possessions and other areas of my life. So basically, my origin story is based on stuff, and lots of it.

But that’s not the only entry point into minimalism, so if you’ve been struggling with the “stuff” part of it all, there might be another way to start simplifying. What’s most important is that you do what feels right!

Other fascinating origin stories

There are others who have shared their origin stories. Some are similar to mine and some are very, very different.

Courtney Carver started with her diet after a medical diagnosis, then proceeded to simplify the rest of her belongings and her lifestyle. Joshua Becker started with his stuff after spending more time than he wanted to cleaning out his garage. Joshua Fields Millburn wasn’t a minimalist until life-changing events sparked him to approach the emotional weight of the stuff around him. Ryan Nicodemus, alongside Joshua Fields Millburn, decided to switch his pursuit of the American Dream to the pursuit of an intentional, good life.

The six doors to a simpler life.

Photo credit: Andrew Beeston

The Six Doors to Simplifying

I’ll go into each in more depth below, but here are the six entry points into simplifying and minimalism that I’ve observed throughout the years:

  1. Clutter
  2. Money
  3. Diet
  4. Schedule
  5. Relationships
  6. Digital distractions

Let’s dive in!

Clutter

This one is the most evident, and is the most obvious place to start. You can identify this as a problem when you start running out of places to put stuff, find yourself cleaning too often, or spend an inordinate amount of time on finding the perfect storage solution.

Starting with clutter is a great way to get the ball rolling and you will soon see the effects of simplifying your stuff in your life. A clear space is a clear mind.

However, it’s not always a comfortable place for everyone to start based on emotional ties to stuff or time or health constraints.

Money

I think we’re all trying to simplify this with varying degrees of success. This category is hard. Unexpected things pop up that make this area of our lives difficult to control completely.

However, starting here will give you more time for other areas of your life (because time is money and money is time). It can be as drastic as you want – you can aim for early retirement like Mr. Money Mustache or you can just cut out most extraneous expenses and get debt-free a little sooner.

Diet

There’s a pattern here – most of these entry points deal heavily with emotion, and this one is no exception. Your food choices are highly personal and the are the most directly connected to your actual human life.

Food determines our energy levels, our immunity and our overall health. This is one area that you can actually add to instead of taking away from – start by adding in an extra serving of veggies or an apple snack to remind your body what these nutrients can do for you. This is the change that you can make right now, while the other changes will take a little more time.

Schedule

Even though this one seems so impossible, trust me: there’s always room. Simplifying anything in your life means that you have to learn to say “no” to things, and what better way to get practice in?

We’re bombarded by invitations, requests and meaningless to-do’s, so start small. What is one thing that you can say no to today? Saying no to things that don’t add value to your life means that you can say yes to more things like spending time with loved ones, going on walks and taking care of yourself.

Relationships

This one is difficult – are there relationships in your life that do not bring joy or value? Are you surrounding yourself with people who motivate you or are you surrounded by people who bring you down?

Breaking off romantic relationships and friendships is complicated, but sometimes both need to be done.But by saying “no” to certain relationships, your truly meaningful relationships will have the space they deserve to flourish.

Digital distractions

If you have an internet connection, you probably have this problem. Notifications, requests and updates are constantly pinging on our desktops and our phones. Even though it takes up little physical space, these distractions take up a massive amount of emotional and mental space.

This category includes social media, files like word documents and photographs, email, and our cloud-based calendars. Start by removing push notifications from your phone as much as possible, then explore each space individually after that.

How to find which one is right for you

Take a moment to think about where most of your stress lies.

If you’re stressed about being busy, then look into your schedule. If there’s too much buzz in your mind and on your phone, start with digital distractions. Always frustrated about the clutter on your desk? Start with stuff.

If you can’t think of it right away, observe yourself for a couple of days. When and where do your stress levels spike, and when are they the lowest?

They’re all connected

If you’re worried that you just have to choose one, fear not. Once you start simplifying and streamlining one part of your life, you’ll start to see how it can be applied to other areas.

I felt like it was no stretch to change my eating habits after my closet was manageable. I began to value my time more after those two changes, so I then switched my focus to my digital life – particularly cutting down on Facebook.

Whatever you choose, know that your path to simplifying is entirely your own. Read others’ stories and take what you feel is relevant to yourself from them. If you try to copy someone exactly, you’ll end up in an unsustainable, frustrating and ultimately, complicated lifestyle.

Where did you start simplifying, or where do you think you’ll focus next?

A Minimalist Apartment Tour

Happy Friday!

I want to kick off this glorious, autumn-in-LA morning with a tour of my home. We’ve lived in Los Angeles for ten months and have slowly added things back into our life based on our needs and our values.

We are a far cry from where we were in Indianapolis a year ago, drowning in stuff we didn’t need and didn’t love.

But first, I want to share my best tip for avoiding new purchases for your home.

How to not buy new home decor

I often catch myself saying things like “what if we got just one more chair…” but I know that’s not something that will truly bring me happiness. I’m guessing that you’ve said something like that too.

The other day, I actually considered getting a bar cart for a random corner of the apartment. Sure, it sounds cool, but it’s one more thing to wipe rabbit hair off of. And I doubt that prominently displaying our liquor will help with us in our efforts to trim back on the booze.

So what do I do when I’m sick of the way things are and want to add in a new piece? Hint: it’s not new throw pillows.

I rearrange the furniture.

When the room no longer feels “right” to me, I move things around. I have relocated our furniture no less than five times in ten months. This last switch actually has hit the right chord for me and made me never want to move out of this apartment. I love this space more than ever, all thanks to some heavy lifting.

So there you have it: to change the entire look and feel of a room without spending a dime, rearrange the furniture.

Our minimalist apartment tour

Remember how I said minimalism can be colorful? My minimalism is definitely not for the monochromatic crowd, so prepare yourself accordingly.

First, the main space where we eat, work and relax:

Apartment Tour - Living Room Apartment Tour - Table Apartment Tour - Desk

We’ve covered the whole space in giant rugs so that our rabbits can frolic freely, which I love because it brings so much color to the room.

Next, the bedroom and bathroom:

Apartment Tour - Bedroom Apartment Tour - Bathroom

Again, colorful and bright – I can’t get over how many windows are in this place. What sold me on our apartment in Indianapolis was that it had three windows, compared to most other places having only two. This apartment has five huge windows that keeps things so cheerful that I can’t help but smile.

And finally, our kitchen:

Apartment Tour - KitchenApartment Tour - SpicesI decided to bring all the spices and many dry ingredients out of (and off of) the cupboards because I want them to be easily accessible and I want to be aware of what I have on hand at all times.

Personal tidbits

To finish this post off, I want to share a couple spaces that make our apartment really ours. Especially since it’s basically an IKEA showroom.

As silly as they look, these odds and ends are meaningful to us:

Apartment Tour - Toys Apartment Tour - Nightstand

I just wanted to show that you can dedicate space in your home to collections of things that truly bring you joy. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of meaningful collections – it’s about getting rid of meaningless excess.

And of course, I want to wrap this up by saying this: these photos were taken when our apartment was freshly cleaned. I cropped out the dirty laundry and kept the rabbits’ litterboxes out of sight. I tend to compare my reality with what I see on blogs, so just know this: six out of seven days a week, my apartment is not nearly this clean.

I love all the colors in my home. What part of your home do you love the most?

Closet Tour: Bags

We all have stuff. And many of us have stuff to store that stuff in. But what about the stuff we have to carry our stuff?

Bags. They let us get out and experience the world with whatever we need to do it. While they can help us go and do, having too many (of anything) can become a hindrance

Three years ago, I would have been horrified if I let the internet see what owned me I owned. But I’ve come a long way! So today I’m sharing what I own that helps me get from A to B.

Purses (and why do we have so many?)

I always had a couple dozen purses so that I could always match what I was wearing – and they were all cheap. My most expensive purse was from H&M and clocked in at about $24.

Not that you have to own expensive bags and purses. I’m just saying that when the nicest purse you own is an H&M impulse buy, it’s a pretty good look into how disposable and unintentional your collection is.

Purses are a super-functional opportunity to make a statement about yourself, and they can be cheap. Hence the purse trap: you don’t realize how many you’ve accrued until you start taking them out of the closet.

So a few years ago I sorted through all my junky purses and left myself with a single, red cross-body purse. It was so small that my phone, keys and wallet made it look overstuffed. But it was my purse, the purse, and I stuck with it all day, every day.

My husband started noticing it’s raggedness and encouraged me to treat myself to something that was a little bigger and that made me happy. He encouraged me multiple times. (I think it might have been more ragged than I remember!)

My one purse

My next purse needed to meet three qualifications: quality construction, larger than the last one, and beautiful.

I didn’t worry too much about it matching anything because, honestly, I don’t care. I just want it to do it’s job and make me happy while it’s doing it (meaning it had to be colorful). And that’s when I found my Sakroots convertible purse/backpack:

My super bright new purse

My super bright new purse

It can be worn as a backpack too!

It can be worn as a backpack too!

So there you have it: my one purse that actually fits everything I need to fit into it. Now what about non-daily bags?

Travel and work bags

The rest are a little less fun, but highly functional:

  • Laptop Bag: This baby was a brand new shopgoodwill.com find that suits my remote work perfectly. It makes me feel professional in public, and it just makes me happy overall – come on, just look at that yellow.
  • Backpack: This, my high school backpack, used to be what I carried my laptop around in. It has too many pockets for casual cafe-working, so I tended to stuff it with things I didn’t need to bring. Now, I use it as my personal item on planes. 10+ years and still going strong!
  • Suitcase: There’s nothing for scale in the image below, but this lil’ guy is small enough to fit in an overhead compartment. Alongside my backpack, I don’t need any more luggage space when traveling. Note: I’ve never traveled extensively abroad, so I don’t know if I’d need more space for that or not.
  • Overnight bag: My PINK bag is super multipurpose: no zippers makes it great for carrying yarn, it’s washable so it’s toted rabbit supplies and of course, it’s my favorite color. This straightforward bag has served me for several years and I think it will continue on for many more to come.

So there you have it – a peek into what bags I consider essential. What would you like to see next: shoes, dresses, tops?

And what are your toting essentials?

The 20-Item Traveler and Other Things

I just returned from ten days back in my hometown in Indiana. It was so lovely seeing my family and friends, but I am glad to be back into my routine. I think that’s how any trip goes.

I got to experience the familiar, inconsistent Indiana weather: a mix of hot, cold and perfectly pleasant days. So of course I packed appropriately, right?

Wrong. Why did I think a light sweater would serve as a coat on the 40 degree days? LA must be getting to me.

What I packed

I tried to keep it simple for the trip since my husband and I each only brought backpacks and then shared a checked bag. I actually managed to keep my clothes at under 20 items. I did have to borrow a jacket for the 40-degree day we had, but other than that I had everything I needed.

I packed:

  • 1 Sweater
  • 1 Scarf (the only one I own – it doubles as a blanket and travel pillow)
  • 1 Purse
  • 1 Running spandex capri
  • 2 Sofee shorts
  • 2 Running/pajama shirts
  • 2 Pairs of jeans
  • 4 Shirts
  • 2 Camisoles
  • 3 Dresses (including my Versalette)
  • Underwear and makeup, but I’ll spare you those details

I also brought my laptop, which was fortunate because the clarity of a different space allowed me to make a few breakthroughs in my work.

The most important pieces

Out of everything, there were two pieces that I couldn’t have done without.

My scarf – I adore this scarf. It’s big enough to cover most of my body as a blanket if I need it too, and it’s been my travel pillow every time I’m on a plane. When it’s not around my neck, it’s laid out on our bed at home since it has a beautiful, colorful butterfly design on it. My brother got it for me from Puerto Rico 7 or 8 years ago and it has a few holes in it, but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The newest addition to my wardrobe is my Versalette, and this is the first time I was able to travel with it. The Versalette is a convertible piece of clothing that can take any shape – dresses, skirts, tops, scarves, even a bag. I got so many compliments on it, and it’s literally (and I mean really literally) the most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever owned.

Now that I’m back

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am so happy to be back on the blog and back to work.

I have an announcement coming soon – probably in the next post or two – that LA-area folks will find interesting.

Until then though, what are your travel essentials?

Real Real Simple

I’ve always been fascinated by magazines. Something about the editorials alongside brilliantly colorful ads and the smell of the perfume samples really gets to me.

But of course, the temptation to buy is there, and it’s strong. And a few years I realized the ultimate irony: Real Simple is filled with tempting products that claim to offer a more simple life. But there’s so rarely a case for more when it comes to our quest for less.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the magazine, but take a moment to flip through the pages or webpages and you’ll see ads and product recommendations – quite the opposite of what it takes to really live a simplified life.

So I’ve been brainstorming what that might actually look like.

Real Real Simple: Tips for living a truly simplified life

My tips for a real, real simple life

  • Work. If you love it, stay. If you don’t, get out of there. I’ve seen too many Millennials (and older) hang on to jobs with excuses about money and the job search is hard…if you really want to make a change, then change. If you’re miserable and unwilling to try to make a change, then that lies on you. Complaining will get you nowhere, but some research and effort might take you further than you’d ever think.
  • Food. Forget learning how to read labels. Learn how to shop for (and cook!) meals made from things without packaging: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. A diet like that isn’t terribly expensive or time consuming – in fact, the extra love you put in now will save you health care costs in the future. The closer you get to the natural state of the food, the better. (Also, I don’t really subscribe to one particular diet, but I’ve found that veggie-heavy and very few animal products works well for me).
  • Relationships. Put your people into three buckets based on the energy they bring to your life: positive, neutral, and negative. Start spending more time with the positives and spend less with the negative and neutral people. Being aware of how they impact your life is a strong first step in curating your relationships – and more meaningful relationships will benefit everyone, not just you.
  • Stuff. Declutter before organizing every time. If you’re overwhelmed with your stuff, getting new storage bins is just a temporary solution to a larger, more permanent problem. You don’t have to get rid of it all at once, but edit when you can. Keep your stuff only if it’s useful or beautiful to you.
  • Exercise. You don’t need a plan – just get outside and take a walk. Switch out coffee dates for walking dates. Bike to work. Do pushups or situps while you’re watching Netflix. I think, for me especially, it’s easy to get in our heads about doing something good for our bodies. We can’t expect to run a marathon on our first day, and we can’t even expect to feel like working out everyday. But what is most important is making the time to do one thing for your body every day. I love this advice: make it a goal to get your shoes on and get out the door. What comes next is up to you, but at least you’ve accomplished that first step.
  • Finances. Track your spending, then make a budget. Awareness is the first step! This ties in with almost every other point I’ve mentioned. Stick with whole, healthy bulk foods, find free ways to get fit and socialize, and don’t buy it if you don’t need it. If you really love something and want to get it – give it some time, research it, and think about where it fits in to your life. I usually give myself at least a month to really know that it’s something important to me before taking the plunge.

My golden rule of simplicity

The most simple, real thing I believe we can do that has a lasting impact is this: be kind to yourself.

I know this sounds a little cliche and/or silly, but I really believe that finding the right balance of motivation and self-care has profound effects on our lives and the lives of those around us. Are you any good when you’ve neglected your most basic needs (like a good night’s sleep or a healthy meal)?

In the real simple world of managing time, clutter, relationships and more, that’s the big factor that we’re missing. If we’re not meeting our basic needs, everything else gets a lot more complicated.

What’s your golden rule for simplicity?